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STAGE REVIEW : Some Gems, Some Trivia in ‘Blame It’ Sequel

Sixty-seven songs are listed in the program for “Blame It on the Movies II,” another compilation of movie music from the same folks whose initial “Blame It” played earlier this year at the same site, the Coast Playhouse.

The new edition is much like its predecessor. As before, we get a few smoothly polished gems, some stylishly sung trivia, some merely trivial trivia and a few moments when the songs rush by so quickly that it’s hard to assess their worth.

This time, our guide is Lu Leonard, in all her zaftig glory. For most of the show, she’s a hoot. But she also sings a serious song, “Isn’t It Better,” and does it very well.

The first big chunk of the show features songs from comedies. Some of these aren’t so funny (“Call Me Irresponsible”), some are (“I Get the Neck of the Chicken”). A few (“Nine to Five,” “Ready to Take a Chance Again”) are remembered more from radio than from movies.

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Snatches of several of these songs are tied together in a medley involving prop telephones. This sequence is frustrating--the songs are radically truncated and the phones add nothing of interest.

Next comes “Music From the Hollywood Spectaculars,” including some dubious pretenders to the “spectacular” label. Does anyone want to hear the title song from “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines”?

The danger of taking songs out of their context is illustrated when Ann Morrison, singing “And We Were Lovers” from “The Sand Pebbles,” breaks down and weeps. The display seems awfully artificial, considering that we have no idea whom she’s singing about.

Nevertheless, Ron Abel’s decades-spanning arrangement of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” gives this section a lift. And Donn Simione gives it a truly grand finale, singing “You” from “The Great Ziegfeld” and tapping his heart out atop a model of New York skyscrapers. Mark Reina choreographed with flair.

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The “Spectaculars” section is dedicated to Miklos Rosza but includes only one selection from his work. Rosza’s scores really need a symphony orchestra instead of the four-piece band at the Coast, so it’s just as well that we don’t hear more Rosza. Unfortunately, this reasoning didn’t stop the band from opening Act II with a screechy, synthesized rendition of John Williams’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark (March).” Williams deserves an orchestra no less than Rosza.

Next up is Bill Hutton, staring soulfully at Rita Hayworth portraits before launching into “Time After Time.” This is the show’s worst bit of miscasting; Hutton looks too boyishly blond and contemporary to remember Hayworth. However, his looks are ideal for the clever selection of “Saturday Matinee” music that follows.

Here, the cast changes into beach clothes, the better to hear Leonard croon “Tammy” and to place Peter Marc’s amusing impersonation of a beach-boy airhead singing “Gidget” into the right context. Costumer Madeline Ann Kozlowski, whose eye for the performers’ best colors is acute throughout the show, rises to the occasion of creating outfits for the title characters in the theme from “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”

A travelogue medley concludes the show, ranging from “Paducah” to “Sayonara” to “Viva! Las Vegas"--which features funny Leslie Easterbrook as a dingbat showgirl whispering the “Viva” through properly wetted lips. This section includes two “Autumn in . . . " songs (one too many), but it also offers the pleasures of Simione and Morrison in “A Foggy Day” and Morrison leading the company in “Somewhere Out There.”

The voices are not quite as impressive in this edition of “Blame It” as in the first, although Dinah Lenney displays a wide and rich range. Billy Barnes wrote additional musical material, and David Galligan staged “Blame It” with expert help from designers Jon Gottlieb (sound), Michael Gilliam (lighting) and Deborah Raymond and Dorian Vernacchio (sets).

At 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., through Nov. 27. Tickets: $18-$24; (213) 650-8507.


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